I’m a millionaire businessman who was arrested for protesting with restaurant workers. We demand better wages for the employees running our economy.

wage protest
  • What our economy is experiencing is not a worker shortage, it’s a wage shortage.
  • Our economic recovery is stalling because wages have been frozen for a decade.
  • It’s time we give America’s tipped workers the pay increase they deserve. Our countries financial future relies on it.
  • Brian is a member of the Patriotic Millionaires and the co-founder of The Delta Fund.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the US transitions into the recovery phase of the pandemic, tipped workers across the country are leveraging their strength in numbers and sending a clear message to the restaurant industry that they should be paid what they deserve.

The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is a direct legacy of slavery that has long contributed to some of the highest rates of sexual harassment across any industry. It’s time policymakers take action to ensure one fair wage nationwide.

On May 25, I joined restaurant workers in downtown San Francisco as part of a nationwide wage strike to demand an end to the sub-minimum wage and a full, fair living wage nationwide. We engaged in civil disobedience to call attention to the ongoing injustice that tipped minimum wage workers are forced to endure every day, and were arrested by SFPD as a result.

As a wealthy white man, my experience being arrested was likely more comfortable than the conditions many of our nation’s tipped workers face every day. 70% of women working as servers, bartenders, or other roles in the food services industry say they’ve dealt with sexual harassment from their employers, coworkers or customers. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues and made working conditions worse for vulnerable employees.

Now, with our country facing an unprecedented hiring shortage, especially in the restaurant industry, it is slowing our economic recovery. Hard working Americans simply don’t want to risk their lives for poverty wages any longer. It’s important that allies in California, which is already a One Fair Wage state – a state that requires all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top – with a stronger restaurant industry to prove it, join this fight.

I am a successful business leader, a former executive, and now an investor in old and new businesses across the United States, so I know what a good investment looks like. I’ve done the research and seen for myself how ending the sub-minimum wage and enacting a full, fair minimum wage with tips on top is not only good for restaurant workers, but for owners and customers as well. Pre-pandemic, the seven existing One Fair Wage states have higher restaurant industry growth and even higher rates of tipping. Even now, though all restaurants have struggled mightily in the face of COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurants in One Fair Wage states have on average seen less decline in their number of open businesses in the hospitality industry.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from the heads of the corporate restaurant chains that have long been fighting against raising wages. On call after call, these CEOs have not only said that a higher minimum wage for all workers doesn’t hurt their business, they’ve also admitted that it’s actually better for business.

The CFO of Denny’s, for instance, said on an investor call that California raising its minimum wage has helped the chain outperform there versus the rest of the country. Understandably, that’s led to a shareholder revolt against the company’s continued lobbying against a $15 minimum wage. If companies like Denny’s admit that One Fair Wage is good for their bottom line, they’re violating their fiduciary duty by spending millions of dollars lobbying against fair wage laws.

That’s why our protest in San Francisco started outside Denny’s downtown. We need to hold them accountable for their hypocrisy and the low-wages they’re still paying our brothers and sisters across the country.

The bottom line is that the federal government has already bailed out restaurant owners to the tune of over $28 billion over the last year and a half. It’s time for the federal government to give restaurant workers the same attention, and mandate that they must be paid what they deserve.

The House has acted. Now, we need the Senate to pass the full Raise the Wage Act, which would end subminimum wages for tipped workers and make a $15 minimum wage the law of the land.

As a business executive and investor, I know that what’s good for people is good for business. We’re a consumer-driven economy, and putting more money in the hands of workers is essential to driving demand. On the flip side, smart business leaders know that inequality is bad for the economy and bad for business. With the pandemic driving more profits and government bailouts into the hands of the ownership class while impoverishing and bankrupting workers, we’re all going to end up worse off unless a drastic change is made.

Restaurants don’t have a worker shortage, they have a wage shortage. That’s why I stood in solidarity with restaurant workers and was arrested alongside them in their nationwide wage strike. It’s time we demand better for everyone. Call your representatives and let our leaders know that we demand a just and thriving economy, and therefore we demand giving all workers a living wage.

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New research shows that labor unions can help reduce the risk of poverty

labor union protest
Participants carry signs during a march and rally by labor union supporters in Los Angeles.

  • Belonging to a labor union lowers the likelihood that you’ll fall into poverty, new research shows.
  • Living in a state with higher unionization rates even if you’re not a member also helps.
  • Had union membership not declined since the 1970s, we could expect poverty rates to be lower today.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Belonging to a union or living in a US state where organized labor is relatively strong helps lower the likelihood that you’ll fall into poverty, according to our new research.

In a peer-reviewed study, we examined how unionization is correlated with poverty. We analyzed data on poverty and unionization rates from 1975 through 2015 using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which is widely considered to be the gold standard for tracking individuals over time. We used a variety of poverty measures in our analysis.

We found that households in which there was at least one union member had an average poverty rate of 5.9%, compared with 18.9% for nonunion households, based on a relative measure of poverty rather than an absolute measure, by which what it means to be poor is fixed over time.

Read more: I rage-quit my job of 6 years when a new employee was promoted over me. I don’t regret leaving in such an emotional way, but there are a few things I should’ve done differently.

We also wanted to examine the impact of living in a state with a higher rate of unionization to see whether this broadly affected the likelihood that someone would be in poverty compared with states with lower union membership. Using the same relative measure of poverty, we found that states with higher unionization rates had average poverty levels about 7% lower than states with lower unionization rates.

Our findings imply that a 5% decline in union membership translates, on average, into a 2% increase in the probability that a resident of the state will fall into poverty.

Why it matters

When policymakers and academics develop plans to address poverty, they rarely, to our knowledge, consider the impact of labor unions.

And yet research across social science disciplines show time and again that labor unions have been central to bolstering the American middle class by raising wages and expanding access to fringe benefits.

Thus, it is logical, though rarely discussed, that unions would also reduce the risk that people become impoverished.

Our study also helps explain why the United States has a relatively high rate of poverty18% as of 2017 – compared with other rich democracies. France and the Norway, for example, boast poverty rates in the single digits as well as higher rates of union membership.

Our results suggest that had union membership not declined dramatically since the 1970s, we could reasonably expect poverty rates would be significantly lower.

What’s next

We intend to conduct additional research, both within the United States and among other countries, to better understand the mechanisms linking unionization to poverty.

More broadly, the biggest open question is whether US labor unions can expand their membership again and provide these types of protections against adverse economic forces.

Tom VanHeuvelen, assistant professor of sociology, University of Minnesota and David Brady, professor of public policy, University of California, Riverside

The Conversation
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If you want to see just how badly workers in the US get screwed over, just look at how baseball players are treated

A baseball flying through in the air with red dollar signs threading at its seams on a purple background
Minor League Baseball conditions are causing players to speak out.

  • Earlier this month, minor league baseball players nearly had to sleep in their cars because of low pay and no housing.
  • That’s part and parcel for how minor leaguers are treated around the industry.
  • The way baseball treats workers is symptomatic of the way American labor is treated across industries.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On June 15, player advocacy group Advocates for Minor Leaguers called out the Baltimore Orioles for their treatment of Double-A affiliate the Bowie Baysox.

Baysox players, Advocates for Minor Leaguers tweeted, were “considering sleeping in their cars” because the team wouldn’t pay for housing and the cost of a hotel would come to 80% of their two week paycheck after taxes.

Hours later, players were informed that the price was now actually half of what they had been initially told to expect. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias denied to the press that the players had ever been in danger of sleeping in their cars, telling reporters that was just “not accurate.”

It’s hard to take that denial seriously, however. Minor League players have been subjected to mistreatment and poor pay for decades. Congress codified that maltreatment in 2018, including a provision in the $1.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act that exempts teams from having to pay minor leaguers overtime or for spring training. The deck is stacked against minor league players, who are fighting for an elusive chance to make it to the majors and a real paycheck.

This is the American way. Around the country, workers are subjected to poor conditions, worse pay, and sold unrealistic promises of better futures. Rich owners of baseball teams deny their employees in the minors adequate pay and shelter despite the relatively low cost of doing so – just like billionaires like Jeff Bezos overwork and underpay their employees in other industries.

Food and Shelter

Minor League players face difficult working conditions, Advocates for Minor Leaguers executive director Harrison Marino told me. Most players make about $15,000 a year – seasonal pay that comes with a contractual obligation to perform services all year. Many, if not most, minor leaguers have to find other jobs in the offseason just to make ends meet while they continue to train.

Housing is extremely difficult given the rung-by-rung movement of most minor leaguers towards the majors and for the pittance they are paid. While teams pay for player accommodations on the road, players are expected to provide for themselves and find housing as needed when playing at home. This presents myriad issues, not least that a player can bounce around from city to city as they advance in their career because a team’s affiliates will not be all in one region.

For instance, a player in the San Francisco Giants organization would in theory have to travel from its Low-A affiliate team – the first rung on the minor league ladder – in San Jose to its High-A team in Eugene, Oregon (562 miles away) to its Double-A team in Richmond, Virginia (a 2,873 mile trip), and finally to the Triple-A team in Sacramento (a 2,783 mile trip). All while finding new housing every time they move up (or down) levels.

The food situation is often hardly better. On June 1, Advocates for Minor Leaguers posted photos from Oakland Athletics minor leaguers showing their post-game meals: a cheese sandwich from May worthy of the infamous Fyre Festival and, more recently, what appeared to be an attempt at a taco. The A’s claimed they had ended the relationship with the vendor, “several weeks ago.”

There’s not much players can do.

“Because players are tied to their MLB club for seven seasons, they can’t seek a better deal with a different club,” Marino told me. “When it comes to MLB teams’ treatment of Minor League players, it really is a race to the bottom.”

America’s Game

Because of its monopolistic position over the sport of baseball, Major League Baseball is the only viable buyer for baseball player labor. That gives the league outsized power and control over its labor pool to an extent most other companies can only dream of. In practice, this means a relationship between worker and boss that is tilted overwhelmingly toward the powerful.

Minor leaguers have faced an extreme version of that relationship for decades. Steve Hamilton, a major leaguer, told Studs Terkel in 1974’s “Working” that the unbalanced relationship between players and owners was even harder on the players in the minors – who didn’t, and don’t, have a union, unlike major league players.

“They insist on knowing you as a thing,” said Hamilton. “It’s easy for them to manipulate.”

Reflecting Pool

Poor treatment and low pay are endemic in nearly every US industry, and the tension between how workers are treated and business owners are compensated has become more and more apparent in recent years. Conversations around income inequality that exploded into the mainstream more than a decade ago have matured and begun to target the systemic underpinnings of the American economic system.

Baseball isn’t even the worst offender. The gig economy, particularly driver services like Uber and Lyft, has led to a less stabilized and less secure workforce even as the people at the top of those companies rake in profits. Hourly pay for a driver at Uber – like Minnesota Twins pitcher Randy Dobnakout did before getting signed – comes to a little under $10 an hour after taxes, according to an EPI study; the company further depresses wages by refusing, unless forced, to provide benefits for workers.

Companies around the country dangle the opportunity of promotions and power in front of workers in order to entice them into dead-end jobs because, technically, the possibility exists that they can advance – though only around 10% will. But for the majority of working people in the US, the American dream seems barely worth imagining.

No wonder, then, that there’s a labor shortage. The service industry is facing severe difficulty in getting people to return to work, and the response from many restaurateurs and caterers is to call for an end to COVID-related unemployment benefits. The song remains the same: for bosses and owners, the workers are disposable, whether they’re short order cooks, drivers for Uber, or minor league baseball players,

“Baseball occupies a unique position in our cultural landscape,” Marino said. “For the past 150 years, labor relations in baseball have both reflected and shaped labor relations in the United States more broadly.”

Today, conditions are better than they were in the past – the plight of the Minor League players notwithstanding. But the deck is still stacked against workers, just as it is across almost every industry in America.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon is reportedly telling delivery drivers they must give ‘biometric consent’ so the company can track them as a condition of the job

Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.
Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.

  • Amazon delivery drivers will reportedly lose their jobs if they don’t give the company permission.
  • The form would allow Amazon to collect biometric data, like facial recognition, from the drivers.
  • News surfaced last month that Amazon was planning to roll out AI-powered cameras in its vehicles.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is telling its delivery drivers to sign a consent form that allows the company to track them based on biometric data as “a condition of delivering Amazon packages,” Motherboard’s Lauren Kaori Gurley reported on Tuesday.

Thousands of drivers across the US must sign the “biometric consent” paperwork this week, and if they don’t they’ll lose their jobs, according to Motherboard. The form, which was viewed by the outlet and published in the report, states that Amazon would be allowed to use “on-board safety camera technology which collects your photograph for the purposes of confirming your identity and connecting you to your driver account.” The system would then “collect, store, and use Biometric Information from such photographs.”

The technology specifically would track a driver’s location and movement, like how many miles they drive, when they brake and turn, and how fast they are driving.

As Motherboard noted, the drivers presented with the consent form are employed through third-party delivery partners that use Amazon’s delivery stations but who are still subject to the company’s working guidelines. An Amazon delivery company owner told the outlet that one of their drivers refused to sign, citing Amazon’s micromanaging as the reason.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The report comes after Amazon announced in February that it would start using cameras equipped with artificial intelligence in its trucks to track the drivers while they work. One driver, per Reuters, quit over privacy concerns regarding the new cameras. Amazon told Insider in a previous statement that the new cameras were part of an effort to invest in “safety across our operations.”

Read more: More than 40% of surveyed Amazon employees say they wished they were in a union, a new Insider survey shows

The AI cameras are able to sense if a driver is speeding, yawning, or if they’re not wearing their seatbelt, among other motions. Each truck’s system includes four cameras: one with a view of the road, two that face the side windows, and one that faces the driver.

You can read the full report on Motherboard here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

New York City just granted protections to fast food workers. It may be a model for protecting essential workers across the country.

fast food protests new york minimum wage
Protesters with NYC Fight for $15 gather in front of a McDonalds on February 13, 2017 in New York City.

  • New York City just passed a law saying employment in the fast food industry will no longer be “at will,” but must require “just cause” for firing workers. 
  • The law will provide workers needed protections by making it harder to fire them. 
  • If the effects of the law are positive, this could be a model for protecting essential workers across the country. 
  • Vincent White is a partner at White, Hilferty & Albanese, a national employment law firm.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

At a moment of unprecedented insecurity for millions of American workers, New York City is once again functioning as a vital laboratory for the future of protecting American workers.

In 2019, after the city increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour, states from New Jersey to California followed with plans of their own to boost wages. Now a new law, passed in January and taking effect in July, will strengthen the job security of fast food workers in New York City and could be a model for more localities across the US.  That’s because after July, employment in the industry will no longer be “at will.” Instead, employers will have to show “just cause” for firing workers. 

This is a bold and important experiment, one that could bring more stability to workers in a notoriously difficult and high-turnover employment sector. The new law may also hasten a shift toward automation and impose costs on the operators of franchises at a time when New York City is struggling with massive revenue losses. Whatever the results of the new law, it’s encouraging to see a major American city move beyond stale talking points in policy debates and actually introduce a forceful, targeted intervention in labor law. 

Many experts predicted that raising New York City’s minimum wage in 2019 would harm both revenue and employment. But contrary to these doom and gloom predictions, both increased. People were willing to pay a bit more to eat in restaurants, and everyone was able to benefit. This new law could also easily surprise us in a variety of ways.

What are “just cause” protections? 

The “just cause” standard, while vague around the edges, can provide powerful protections for workers. 

Under the old law, those who did not agree to cover last-minute shifts or work overtime might be fired with relative ease, perhaps on the pretext that they were not a “team player.” The language in the new law requires application of “progressive discipline,” which means that termination can occur only after a series of graduated interventions proportionate to any infractions of policy. 

What’s more, this discipline cannot be arbitrarily dispensed according to the fluctuating whims, grudges, or agendas of a particular boss. It must be “reasonable and applied consistently,” a substantive legal phrase that provides genuine protection to workers.

In cases of obvious misconduct, fast food restaurants will still be able to fire employees. Assaulting the boss, spitting in the food – any reasonable judge or arbitrators would regard these as just causes for termination. In borderline cases, however, things will become more interesting. Is lagging productivity a legitimate reason for dismissal? A bad attitude that undermines morale without violating any policy? These cases are murkier. 

The potential benefits of “just cause”

Absent this new law, employers probably would not think twice before dismissing workers in such scenarios, figuring that in an industry with annual turnover rates that often exceed 100%, they could always find another worker. Many more employers are now likely to be deterred from quick dismissals by the prospect of a longer and legally mandated process, which could trigger back pay for unlawfully terminated employees and statutory penalties of $500 for each violation. 

This could result in more careful selection, training, and treatment of workers. It makes sense to invest more in choosing workers carefully and keeping them happy if you know that they are harder to dismiss. This could even cause upward pressure on wages as franchises compete to attract and retain good workers. 

On the other hand, there might be fewer fast food jobs if the new law increases operational costs and decreases turnover. Critics also worry that employers might be permanently stuck with chronically underperforming employers they are unable to dismiss. 

There’s some legitimacy to this fear, but it needs to be weighed against the benefit of decreasing unjust and arbitrary terminations. It’s also important to remember that the new law is currently limited to the fast food industry; businesses with profit flowing in from locations around the country and world can afford to treat workers a bit better in New York City. And if the local owners of New York City franchises are affected by the expense of these new laws, the wealthy national companies that grant these franchises could help their local operators with extra costs.

Rather than such a generous course of action, however, corporate fast food mammoths may simply accelerate the shift to automation that has already begun. McDonald’s spent nearly $1 billion in 2019 adding ordering kiosks and other automation technology to stores. 

As current mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has stressed, this transition is likely inevitable in a range of industries over the coming years. Rather than postponing it, a more intelligent strategy may be to increase the security and wages of those jobs that can still only be done by humans. There’s even an argument for hastening the arrival of automation: if it’s going to happen anyway, the sooner we begin to experience its full disruptive effects, the sooner our economies and political systems will be forced to develop sustainable responses. 

A final virtue of this new labor law is its granting of genuine workplace protections to those we celebrate as essential workers during the pandemic. Many of these workers already rely on public assistance programs because of low wages, and they now face additional risk from a deadly virus on a daily basis. 

If we care about helping such people, a disproportionate number of whom are from immigrant and minority communities, it’s long overdue to provide them with more than a hollow bit of celebratory rhetoric about how they are “essential.” New York City’s bold new law could be a crucial step in the right direction. The rest of the country will be waiting to see the results. 

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